In 2013, Philippine software developer and SaaS provider, AppSource, needed to find a new hosting partner—fast. Managers wanted reliable local support for their applications, and chose Windows Azure. With technical support and guidance from Microsoft
staff, AppSource re-deployed five Ruby on Rails applications onto the Azure platform in one week. Now, managers have an easy-to-use portal that helps them accurately predict server costs, ensuring AppSource customers receive a reliable, cost-effective service.
AppSource is a software-development firm and software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider. It builds applications to help companies manage specific business functions, and then hosts them in third-party data centers. Customers access their applications through
a browser, and AppSource charges them a monthly fee.
Since 2008 AppSource has expanded steadily, and now provides a range of applications, all delivered through the SaaS model. These include: Restobot, a tool to help restaurants manage their business processes; Trippingbot, a booking system for travel and
ferry companies; and Terrabooks, a ledger-management system for accounts departments.
In 2013, AppSource suddenly faced a major service-delivery challenge. The firm’s established hosting company announced it would be ceasing its cloud service in two months. With very little notice, AppSource needed to find a new hosting partner.
“We had two major challenges,” says Brian Rafor, Project Manager, AppSource. “First, we needed to find a service that already supported our technology. We built all our applications using the Ruby on Rails application framework with PostgreSQL databases,
and deployed on the Ubuntu 12.04 operating system: we wanted to keep this configuration.
The new platform also had to be very easy to use. “We didn’t have much time to get our apps redeployed, and there had to be a completely smooth transition,” says Rafor. “We have strict service level agreements with our customers—we could not afford delays
or down-time during switchover.”
At the same time, Rafor wanted improved management tools. He wanted accurate cost predictions, so he could keep customer billing in line with costs, and the ability to track virtual server performance, to ensure loads were correctly balanced.
One business need remained paramount, however: reliable local support. “There are lots of cloud companies providing both infrastructure and platform services, but most are based abroad,” he says. “This often delays assistance. We wanted our service provider
to have local staff who could answer calls and texts straight away.”
After assessing services in terms of guaranteed up-time, price and functionality, Rafor narrowed his selection to two infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers: Amazon Web Services, and the equivalent offering from Microsoft, Windows Azure.
“Amazon and Azure were similarly priced, but we chose Windows Azure because we knew Microsoft Philippines provides excellent support for their products here.”
The migration proved straightforward. “Our developers did not need to do any additional work to deploy our custom solution on Azure, and we had the first virtual machines up and running with our applications in one week,” says Rafor. “We tested all the applications
in a sand-box. On the day of the switchover, we simply re-pointed the domains, and the sand-box became our production environment.”
Rafor also reports that he received all the migration and service support he needed. “They gave us access to engineers to answer questions about technical architecture, as well as consultants to help manage deployment,” he says.
With Windows Azure, AppSource has a reliable cloud services platform that is easy to use, and provides excellent support for open source developer technologies.
Easy re-deployment for Ruby apps
Rafor is impressed at the openness of the Azure platform. “I had no idea the Microsoft platform could be used to host open source applications,” he says. “Ruby on Rails and PostgreSQL are fully supported on Azure: we can use the Azure platform for development
as well as production, and it involves no extra work.”
“Also, we had no difficulty deploying a non-Windows operating system on Azure,” he adds. “We found the Ubuntu 12.04 image on the Azure gallery, created an image, and then installed it on our virtual machine. The process was very easy.”
Local technical support
AppSource is confident their customers will enjoy a reliable service. “With Azure, we have an excellent service level agreement in place, and Microsoft have the technical and service staff in the Philippines to back it up,” he says. “I always get a rapid
response when I ask for help.”
Rafor also says that online resources provide an excellent second line of support. “Before I open a support ticket, I go to the Azure forum to see if anyone has encountered a similar issue,” he says. “The Azure site is comprehensive and very useful. Azure
phone-support staff often send me a link to a forum page, because the solutions are so well explained.”
Intuitive service-management tools
Rafor says that the Azure platform management tools make a positive contribution to AppSource. “Azure has a good, clean interface: you get a clear overview of your CPU usage, and the dashboard helps me produce detailed reports and take informed decisions,”
he says. “I have better control over my SaaS applications, because it’s easy to adjust the performance and payment parameters.”
“The billing estimates tool is one of the best available,” he adds. “This is critical to us, because we need an accurate estimate of our costs before we negotiate terms with our customers. With Azure, pricing is transparent and predictable, which dramatically
lowers our business risk.
“We will definitely stay with Azure, for the very simple reason that now we don’t have to worry about the daily practicalities of delivering our service.”
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